Monday, June 24, 2024

Honoring community champions: Pender County renames 4 facilities 

Topsail High School and Heide Trask High School are renaming it’s gym, football field, track, and media center to honor notable members in its school district. (Port City Daily/File)

PENDER COUNTY—The gym, football field, track, and media center at two Pender County high schools will be renamed to recognize notable individuals within its school district.

The board voted unanimously to name the locations after Ed Gilroy, William “Bill” Mercier, Jan Lewis, and Jamie Rochelle.

“I proudly make the motion to approve this,” stated board member Beth Burns, during a special called May 28 board of education meeting. 

The athletic facility at Heide Trask High School in Rocky Point is set to be named in honor of Gilroy, who served as the school’s athletic director for 20 years. Gilroy became the athletic director at Heide Trask in 2002, when the school first opened its doors. He retired in June of 2019, following a career span of 42 years in education and athletics. 

Before his time at Heide Trask, Gilroy taught and coached at high schools in New Jersey and in South Carolina. He has been honored with the Pender County High School Coach and Teacher of the Year awards on two occasions, in addition to receiving two awards from the North Carolina Athletic Association, among others. 

The renaming of the track at Heide Trask High School will pay tribute to William “Bill” Mercier, who dedicated 17 years of service as a coach at the school. Mercier has over three decades of experience as an educator and coach in Pender County. Throughout his time at Heide Trask High School, he steered the school to two state championships in men’s track and field in 2003 and 2013, along with securing four regional championships.

The installation of signage bearing the name “Ed Gilroy Stadium” over the football and soccer field, as well as signage designating the track as “Coach Bill Mercier Track,” is expected to be completed by July 1, according to the application for a sign change. 

Over at Topsail High School, Jan Lewis Media Center acknowledges Lewis’ significant contributions to the education community. According to school documents, Lewis has generously donated more than $1 million in funds to the school. Lewis’ donations have funded staff development, textbooks, computers, parking lot paving, and trophy cases, Pender County schools superintendent Dr. Marc Sosne noted in a memo included in the agenda packet. 

Additionally, the main gymnasium at Topsail High School will be dedicated in memory of late coach and educator Jamie Rochelle. Rochelle served as a teacher and coached football, basketball, and golf at Topsail High School for 15 years until his passing in 2023. Michael Taylor, the district’s chief officer of auxiliary services, emphasized during the meeting that the initiative for this dedication came from the student council at Topsail High School. In a letter addressed to the board of education, the student council expressed:

“Naming Topsail High School’s gym after Coach Jamie Rochelle is the least we can do to repay him for his kindness throughout his years of service at Topsail and to the Pender County school system.” 

“Topsail High School Gymnasium” will become the “Jamie Rochelle Gymnasium”. 

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